Sallie Van Kirk acknowledges the pain. She feels it every time she makes a cut.

And sadly, the Wallace State sophomore knows her knee isn’t going to feel better any time soon.

Van Kirk needs surgery to repair a partially torn ACL — an operation she doesn’t intend to have until softball season is over.

“I’m not going to let it stop me,” said Van Kirk, who starred at Clements High before signing with Wallace State two years ago. “I can’t let it stop me. There’s too much riding on this season.”

Driven? Yes.

Van Kirk has a goal, and not even a season-ending injury is going to stop the Lions outfielder from making it happen.

But with this sacrifice comes a price: Lots of physical therapy and plenty of pain.

“Yeah, it hurts,” Van Kirk said. “It bothers me sometimes, and sometimes it doesn’t. It just depends on what I’m doing.”

A little intense pain hasn’t slowed Van Kirk yet. The sophomore is hitting a whopping .450 through seven games. She sports the 24th best batting average in the ACCC.

Not bad for a player with a torn ACL, huh?

“Honestly, it hasn’t bothered me much when we’re playing,” Van Kirk said. “I’ve pretty much been able to do everything I normally do.

“But there have been a few times when my knee has been killing me at practice. It’s been tough.”

Physically, playing with a torn ACL is difficult. Van Kirk is discovering that the hard way. But she’s also found it to be mentally straining, too.

Since arriving at Wallace State two years ago, Van Kirk’s goal was to finish her career with the Lions and move on to a four-year school. But she also wants softball to be in the picture.

Even though Van Kirk played well for Wallace State during last year’s NJCAA national championship run, the sophomore feels like she still has something to prove.

And if she doesn’t perform this season?

“I don’t even want to think about it,” she said. “My goal is to play softball somewhere, and I’d hate for this (injury) to hurt my chances. That would be awful.”

That hasn’t been a problem yet. The sophomore has had at least one hit in eight of Wallace State’s nine games. She’s also had one double, one triple and only struck out twice.

“I really want to finish this out,” Van Kirk said. “With the team we have, I feel like we can do something special. I want to be a part of it. This means a lot to me.”

‰ Justin Graves can be reached by phone at 734-2131, ext. 257 or by e-mail at jgraves@cullmantimes.com.

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